The Value of Triptychs

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The six weeks I spent in Alaska last fall was the single-most generative time in my writing life—in both fiction and nonfiction. It was also the most physically active I have been in recent years. I logged about 100 hiking miles, 100 biking miles, and a lot of movement by car across the state during my stay in The Last Frontier. The connection between movement and creativity was not lost on me.
Wearing a cast for the next 4 months of my 2-year tour most certainly put a damper on things. Paralleled with the completion of my last book, Personae of War, this lack of physical movement and lack of another chapter or story to write felt very dizzying.
Finally, with Valentine’s Day came the thumbs up from the doctor to walk freely again. This permission, paralleled with the psychological distance I’ve gained from the intense war material, has put me in a creative space I’ve never seen before. I have the confidence of a complete, themed body of work behind me and I have the physical strength to walk the miles I want to walk again. As I look at new horizons on my daily walks, the experience is both physical and metaphorical for me.
[Recent walk up Hurricane Creek Road]
I’ve been writing themed flash fiction in triptychs. Last week it was 3 connected (but distinctly separate) pieces titled “Sick Days: An Urban Triptych.” This week it’s 3 different female characters in 3 completely separate flash pieces, connected only by the shared agony of sleeplessness and the subtle, repeated symbolism of a rose blossom that appears in each piece. This set is titled “Sleepless: A Nighttime Triptych.”
I first came across this idea of flash in triptychs when I published a story by author J.A. Tyler (MudLuscious Press) on Cheek Teeth. His story is called “Variations on a Brother War (Divisions Triptych),” and you can read it here. Although my pieces are slightly longer and emphasize stated narrative more than unstated narrative, the idea is the same. If there is three of something, it seems like a do-able thing. If those three things fit along a theme, the task starts to take on a certain appeal.
When I realized I wanted to write about 3 different women who can’t sleep at night, I started thinking about the landscape and psychology of “the bed” and all that entails. While I’m not going to use phrases like “landscape and psychology of the bed” in my stories, this realization offers me an insight for the underbelly of each story. It’s that age-old concept of freedom within limits at work again and I have to say, so far, it’s working.

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